Friday 5 June 2015

A solitary bee quartet

I had so many wild things this summery sunny day that if was hard to settle for an invertebrate group to feature. For lunch I went out with fellow wildlife-lovers Robert Jaques and Callum MacGregor, and tried to capture some hoverflies. Hoverflies were indeed a good candidate for my wild group today as there were plenty, and of many species. Many males were hovering, but a couple of Myathropa florea males managed to sit on my hand, Robert's shoulder and Callums head and avoid the insect net altogether. Episyrphus balteatus, the marmalade fly, were also hovering, and the beautifully metallic Epistrophe eligans. Then I spotted a new spider, with a caterpillar on its web, and then another, would I feature spiders? Then a Red Mason bee started feeding on Buttercups, maybe a wild solitary bee day?
Female Red Mason bee, Osmia bicornis on buttercups. One of her 'horns' is visible at the front of her head. She uses its horns to mould mud she uses to seal her nest.
 Later after work I popped in for ten minutes in the wildlife garden. It was quite warm at the time. A leaf-cutter bee was feeding on thyme, and then chives. Its white and golden mittens flashed as it fed, a Willoughby's leaf cutter bee. Definitely a solitary bee day!
Male Willoughby Leaf-cutter bee, one of the easiest to identify by its front legs, which are covered on white-golden hairs in the shape of mittens, just visible here.

Back home I went to the sage. I had seen a favourite bee of mine yesterday very briefly. Anthophora furcata, a male which didn't settle, patrolling around the sage and the hedge woundwort. This is a rich brown bee with a very long tongue. Males have a yellow face and they have a strong preference for hedge woundwort, but also like several others flowers with deep corollas. Males appear, as many other bees, earlier in the season, settle in an area with their favourite flowers and check other bees, often head-butting them, while in search of females. And there he was, lovely and fresh. He even stopped the frantic patrolling to settle on a sage leaf to bask for a while, its back and face covered on pollen.
A male Anthophora furcata.

As I watched the A. furcata, a smaller bee caught my attention. It was a female Osmia caerulescens. This is a long tongued bee too, females have a bluish tinge and white hairs on stripes on its abdomen. After feeding on the sage, the bee stopped and stretched its tongue several times.
Female Osmia caerulescens

A female Osmia bicornis in the garden on the wallflower Erysimum 'Bowles mauve'.

If you'd like to learn to identify solitary bees, the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society is a wonderful resource. Identification sheets for common solitary bees, often found in gardens are available too. There are 205 species, many hard to identify, but a few common ones are easy to identify once you become familiar with them.

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